Over the years I read many of the thing written by Nouwen and learned much about the way he sought to live his life in places where he could serve some of the world's forgotten and pushed aside folks. But, the other writing which really had an impact on my spiritual journey was "The Return of the Prodigal Son." When I discovered this book late in my ministry, I thought I had surely read everything which could explain every angle of this parable of Jesus. Of course, Nouwen proved me wrong. The inspiration for the book was Rembrandt's painting by the same name. His writing not only explored the painting, but also revealed Nouwen as a psychologist, theologian, and spiritual leader. It, too, became a keeper.
While much has been written about this priest's journey of faith, what he wrote always revealed a man of faith who was praying and thinking. His work had a way of calling me to go beyond the easy to see conclusions when doing scripture work and to understand that real ministry is never done at a distance. Nouwen's life reminded me again and again that ministry and service cannot be done unless one is willing to risk dirty hands and broken hearts.